Valley’s first Purple Heart chapter named in memory of Cathedral City High graduate

The Coachella Valley’s first chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart will be instituted during a ceremony from 5-9 p.m. on Sunday, April 21 at American Legion Post #519, 400 N. Belardo Road, Palm Springs.

The Palm Springs-based chapter has been designated The Military Order of the Purple Heart PFC Ming Sun Chapter #755. The chapter was named in memory of U.S. Army Pfc. Ming Sun, 20, of Cathedral City, who died on Jan. 9, 2007.Sun was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. A graduate of Cathedral City High School, he was killed when his unit came under fire during a patrol in Ramadi, Iraq.

The evening’s festivities will include live entertainment and guest speakers from the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Suggested donation is $5. Information, or to RSVP: Justin J. Gardiner at (760) 567-0442, email PSPH755@gmail.com

Cartoonist Murray Olderman served as U.S. Army officer during World War II

Most people familiar with Murray Olderman know him as an award-winning columnist and syndicated sports cartoonist whose work appeared in hundreds of newspapers for the better part of 35 years.

But before Olderman, of Rancho Mirage, became a famous cartoonist, he was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army during World II.

Olderman served in the ROTC field artillery unit while attending the University of Missouri, where he majored in journalism.

In August of 1942, he enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps. He went back to school for his senior year and wasn’t called to service until the following March.

After reporting to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, he was shipped off to Camp Roberts in central California for basic training in artillery.

“It was the first time I’d ever seen California,” Olderman said. “It was March and it was in that valley above Paso Robles and it was beautiful. Everything was green. It was gorgeous.”

In the summer of 1943, Olderman was sent to Stanford University in Palo Alto where he participated in the Army Specialized Training Program. There he spent a year of intensive study in French language and culture.

He met his future wife, Nancy, at Auten’s, a Palo Alto supper club.

“Then the program broke up and they assigned me to the 71st Division, which was on maneuvers in Hunter Liggett.”

The 71st Light Division maneuvered against the 89th Light Division on the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation in the mountains inland from Big Sur.

“We were all college kids and we all became mule skinners,” he said, laughing. “It was a mountain division, and they broke up a 75mm howitzer into five pieces and a mule carried each piece. We had to tend the mules. So we got instructions — it was very mountainous, very narrow terrain, and when you go on these narrow passages, you walk on the outside, because there was a shortage of mules, but no shortage of soldiers, in case you fall off.

“The war had intensified in Italy and they were training to go to Italy, and by the time we finished basic training we’d already conquered the mountainous terrain in Italy, so they decided to mechanize the division and sent us to Fort Benning, Georgia.

“First, we had to walk the mules to a train station in King City — 27 miles. They said if you volunteer to walk the mules to the train station, you get a two-day pass.

“I wasn’t really a country boy, so I held one mule and led the other mule. The farm guys, they were smart. They got on one mule and led the other mule. But I was afraid. Mules — you have to hold them by the muzzle because if you don’t they’ll turn around and kick you in the jaw,” he said, laughing.

“And when we got there, they gave everybody a two-day pass whether you volunteered or not.”

By the time the division arrived in Fort Benning, the Allies had already invaded Normandy, “so they pulled me out, because I was French-speaking, and sent me to Camp Ritchie, Maryland, a military intelligence center in the U.S. Army,” he said.

After completing this training, he applied to Officer Candidate’s School.

“I was sent back to Fort Benning, Georgia where I became a ‘90-day wonder’ — except it took 120 days by then.”

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry.

On his furlough, Olderman and Nancy made plans to meet somewhere half-way between the California coast and the deep south.

Olderman suggested New Orleans — but Nancy had already been there with her high school graduating class — she grew up in Texas — so she pushed for Chicago.

It was winter and it was cold, he said.

“Nobody meets in Chicago in February, but we did, and we got married.”

“After our honeymoon, I went back to Camp Ritchie, Maryland. I was supposed to stay there six months. It looked like the war was going to end. But six weeks after we were married, I was suddenly given orders to ship overseas as an infantry replacement officer because we had a lot of casualties in the Battle of the Bulge.”

It took two weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean because the ships had to travel in a zigzag pattern to avoid German submarines lurking in the deep.

“We landed in England, then crossed the (English) Channel over to France and I landed in Le Havre two days before the war ended.

Olderman, who was put in charge of a group of replacement soldiers, took a train to Austria where he joined the 65th Infantry Division.

“We were on one side of the Enns River and the Russians were on the other side,” he said.

Many German prisoners were processed and released in Enns, where Olderman spent time at the Military Government office processing displaced persons from all over Europe In early June, the the men moved to a new location, about 15 miles from Enns.

“I was the only guy in my battalion who could speak German, so I was made the military governor of a little town called Nuehofen.”

After about a month, “I was called up to division headquarters because they found out I had a journalism background and they put me to work writing awards and citations.”

Those included a Medal of Honor citation for Pfc. Frederick Murphy, Medical Detachment, 269th Infantry Regiment, killed in action on March 18, 1945. . He also wrote a Distinguished Service Cross citation and Silver Star Medal citations.

U.S. Army Private First Class Frederick C. Murphy’s Medal of Honor citation

After a couple of months, “I was sent to Verona, Italy to be interviewed to join a new organization — USDIC — U.S. Detailed Interrogation Center.”

Gen. Mark Clark was put in charge of U.S. forces in Gmunden, Austria, and after getting word he qualified to join the group, he took a flight out of Italy.

“It was the first time I ever took a plane trip … a (C-47) over the Alps. No pressurized cabin, the door was open. I thought it was great.

“We processed military prisoners for the Nuremberg Trials. That was my main duty overseas. I has an editorial background — I was put in charge of the editing section, I edited all the reports.

“I did some interrogation. I interviewed Robert Best — an American journalist who became a traitor … he volunteered to broadcast for the Germans.”

Interrogations just involved talking.

“We didn’t use any water boarding,” he said.

“We also captured a lady named Hanna Reitsch, who was the Amelia Earhart of Germany. She was one of the last two people out of Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. She could reveal a lot of the inside details of Hitler’s life. We did extensive interrogations of her. I didn’t do the interrogations, but I edited the reports.”

While Olderman was out of the country — almost exactly a year — his thoughts were never far from his sweetheart back home.

“No matter where I was, every night before going to bed, I either typed or hand-wrote letters to my wife.”

He said each letter was about 1,000 words long — about 350,000 words in total.

“Nancy saved all of those letters. They were bundled in a carton and stored in a closet for more than six decades.”

Olderman took excerpts of those missives and wrote a book, “A Year Apart … Letters from War-Torn Europe,” just released this past week.“Nancy was already suffering from Alzheimer’s when I started the project and passed on Oct. 27, 2011,” after 66 years of marriage.

MURRAY OLDERMAN

AGE: 91
BORN: March 27, 1922
HOMETOWN: Spring Valley, N.Y.
RESIDENCE: Rancho Mirage
BRANCH OF SERVICE: U.S. Army, 71st Division; 65th Infantry Division
YEARS SERVED: March, 1943 – May, 1946
RANK: First lieutenant
FAMILY: Wife Nancy (deceased); three children, Lorraine Imlay of New York City, Marcia Linn of Homer, Alaska and Mark Olderman of Indio; five grandchildren; one great-grandchild.
“A Year Apart,” is Olderman’s 15th book. It’s available for purchase on Amazon.com

Gen. Patton pinned Silver Star on U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Andy Allen

This is Part 2 of a story that ran in the March 24 edition of The Desert Sun

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Andy Allen served with the 7th Armored Division during World War II.
The division’s first major objective was the liberation of Paris.

On the march to Paris, “we never had any fixed battles—we had all these moving battles,” Allen said.

The division was the spearhead of the operation.

“I was leading the entire Allied Army — just like Mr. (Gen. George) Patton told me to do,” he said, laughing.

Allen came across a sign that said, “Paris, 10 kilometers,” and continued on.

“There was no shooting. I really didn’t know what to do. We were inside of the city limits of Paris by maybe 100 yards. I halted the column and called the battalion commander and he said to stop there. We sat there for well over an hour. Then word comes down, “Pull out, pull back to an assembly area. I got all my guys turned around.”

LINK:
Gen. George Patton’s persuasion pushed Andy Allen to be young officer

At the assembly area, Allen found out why they were stopped.

The Allied high command said French army Gen. Charles de Gaulle wanted his own troops to recapture Paris.

Part of the deal included allowing the German army to withdraw to prevent the historic city from being destroyed in heavy fighting.

While the Germans retreated, the division started toward the Seine, and prepared to cross the river in row boats.

“It was barely daylight when the P-47s (fighter planes), started strafing the far shore. That was our key to put the boats in the water and paddle across.

“I was in the lead boat,” Allen said. “There was almost zero opposition. We got a little rife fire, nothing serious.”

The engineers quickly got to work building a pontoon bridge.

“Those guys, worked, worked, worked. They did it on the run. Battle is a very confusing situation. They were so well coordinated.

“The whole division came over and we continued the drive through France. Our next objective was Reims. There was a big, beautiful cathedral there … we were told under no circumstances were we to fire any shots at that cathedral.”

Again, the men encountered little fighting, and pushed through, but they soon ran low on fuel.

After siphoning all the gas out of about half the vehicles and filling up the remaining vehicles, they were on their way to Verdun. The division’s next obstacle was the Meuse River, where there was just one bridge remaining.

Patton wanted that bridge saved at all costs, Allen said. The Germans had retreated, but, “we knew the bridge was wired.”

They could be hiding on the opposite shore, waiting to blow it up if Allied troops attempted to cross.

“We had to sneak up on Verdun,” Allen said. “I don’t know how an armored division sneaks up on anything,” he said, laughing.

“Two Frenchmen from the French Underground — they were tough and smart and they knew the area — offered to take us through the back roads and come in from the west.”

A colonel in Allen’s division warily gave him the green light to take his company up to the river.

The Frenchmen had a plan. It was a risky move.

“The colonel said, ‘I don’t see any alternative.’”

He told Allen if the plan worked, he’d be a hero.

Allen stopped the column when they got close to the riverside, and they laid low, keeping out of sight.

The Frenchmen each asked for a length of hose, then walked down to the riverbank.

The men used the hose as a makeshift snorkel and ducked into the water.

“They got all the way underneath the bridge,” Allen said.

The were to give a signal when they cut the wires.

But the enemy was alarmingly close.

“It was late in the afternoon and there were still a few German troops going across the bridge.”

An hour passed, but it seemed like forever, Allen said.

He finally got the sign. The Frenchmen had been able to locate and cut the wires.

U.S. troops moved forward and the Germans that didn’t make it across were captured and taken prisoner.

“With all the tanks and everything there, it was pretty crowded,” he said, describing the scene as the division crossed the lone remaining bridge in the dark.

“In the morning, General Patton came down,” to thank whoever was responsible for saving the bridge, Allen said.

“He asked the colonel who was in charge, and he told him, ‘Lt. Allen.’ He didn’t recognize me from the last encounter,” Allen said, laughing.

Silver Star

“I picked up two medals, including the Silver Star. General Patton pinned it on me.”

“Two or three days later, I got a call from battalion headquarters. They said, ‘The French people want to talk to you.’ The river crossing, from a strategy sense, it was a big deal for the French. I had to go up to a castle to pick up the Croix de Guerre.”

Croix de Guerre

The Croix de Guerre, a French military decoration , is awarded to soldiers — often of foreign military forces — who “distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy.”

Later, they went back to get the vehicles that had been left behind — by then they’d been refueled — and the division pushed on again.

“That gave the Germans time to set up real, honest-to-God defenses.”

When the division got into Holland, the opposition got stronger, he said.

“We got hit by a German counterattack. They broke through the company on my right … they pushed through behind me.”

“We fought ’em off until dark. In the middle or late afternoon, we got into a fight with a German tank. I had a bazooka.

“I’m not that good of a shot,” he added.

The tank didn’t notice Allen and his sergeant getting ready to load and fire.

“The first one hit and bounced off. The second one hit and bounced off.”

The tank’s turret swung around and the big gun took aim at the men.

Allen fired a third shot — but it didn’t do any damage, either.

“The tank starts coming toward me. I have no idea what to do. I said, ‘Say your prayers, boy. You’ve had it.’”

Allen paused and then said, “There is a God.”

“The tank hits a ditch just as he fires. The shell hits the ground 50 yards in front of the tank …the tank got stuck — it couldn’t get out of that muck.”

“A piece of shrapnel hits me in the left leg. That was a pretty good hunk of metal. You feel shock, but you don’t feel the pain right away.”

He was taken from the battlefield on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. He ended up at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paris, where he had surgery on his leg.

“I wanted to get back to my unit,” he said. “Our division had just pulled out of Holland. They took some severe casualties in Holland.

“When the (Battle of the) Bulge hit, our division was ordered to St. Vith,” in Belgium. “We were told to try to hold it for 24 hours. We ended up holding it for three days — at a severe cost. We probably lost half of our battalion, not just in fighting, but the conditions — I can’t imagine worse conditions. The ground was frozen, there was an inch or two of snow. Our winter uniforms were not all that great.”

Later, after Allen rejoined his men, the division made it to the Mulde River in Germany, where they met up with the Russian army , as the war in Europe wound down.

The citation for Allen’s Silver Star Medal presented by Gen. Patton reads in part:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving with the 7th Armored Division, in action in France, on 18 September 1944. First Lieutenant (Infantry) Andrews’ (Allen) gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U. S. Army.”

ANDY ALLEN

AGE: 90
DATE OF BIRTH: March 24, 1923
HOMETOWN: Madison, Wis.
RESIDENCE: La Quinta
BRANCH OF SERVICE: U.S. Army; 7th Armored Division; 2nd Platoon leader, B Company, 48th Armored Infantry Battalion; 3rd Army
YEARS SERVED: June 1942 – December 1945
RANK: Captain
FAMILY: Marjorie (deceased); four children, Andrews Allen Jr., Genie Allen, John Allen and Philip Allen of St. Paul, Minn.; nine grandchildren

Gen. George Patton made big impact on young WWII U.S. Army officer

U.S. Army veteran Andy Allen was an 18-year-old sophomore at Syracuse University — enrolled in the school of journalism — when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“I semi-volunteered in June of 1942,” he said, laughing.

He spent 13 weeks in the armored officer training program at Fort Knox, near Louisville, Ky., where he received his commission as a 2nd lieutenant.

“They were going to put me in the tanks,” he said. “I was shipped to Camp Polk in Louisiana and assigned to the 7th Armored Division.”

After participating in maneuvers in Louisiana, “They thought we were going to be fighting in North Africa so they shipped us out to the California desert to train to fight Mr. Rommel (Erwin Rommel, known as ‘The Desert Fox,’ was a German field marshal).

“Ten miles east of Palen, out by the Coxcomb and Chocolate Mountains — past Desert Center. It was hot. It was really brutal. We spent three months out there. The day we left the desert it was 118 degrees!”

Allen was sent to England with the division’s advance party in March 1944.

The 7th Armored Division arrived in May — prior to D-Day (June 6, 1944) — and was stationed in the Kandahar Barracks near Portsmouth on the Southern coast of England.

By the time the division hit Omaha and Utah beaches in Normandy, France in mid-August, the battle had already moved inland.

The division was assigned to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army.

“The fighting started during the St. Lo breakthrough,” he said. “Then we drove across France.

“Gen. Patton divided troops into a series of combat teams that moved towards Paris. We were one of the spearhead divisions. There was no one in front of us except bad guys.”

By this time, 1st Lieutenant Allen was 2nd platoon leader, B Company, 48th Armored Infantry Battalion.

“Once we broke through St. Lo, there were no major German defenses. But they set up ambushes along the road.”

The Germans hid and the woods and shot at the convoys, especially when the the column crested a hill.

“They shot at you usually with an 88 (88 mm tank gun). You’re chance of getting killed was pretty good.”

“Our standard operating procedure was get off the road, set up machine guns, fire back, and try to get by with as few casualties as possible.”

Allen met Patton before the troops made it to Paris.

“One time, we were taking a little more fire than normal. I am scared. We’d taken some casualties. I’m off the road in a ditch.”

While Allen stressed about his next move, “Down the road comes a guy standing up in a Jeep.”

He said Patton cussed and yelled and demanded to know who was in charge.

No one answered, so Allen thought he’d better speak up, because he was out of options.

“I’m hiding behind a blade of grass,” Allen said, laughing.

“I said, ‘Sir, Lieutenant Allen here. I’m in command.’ ”

“Patton said, ‘Lieutenant, the entire Allied advance is being held up because you’re not doing your job!’ ”

“I’m more scared of Patton than the Germans. He was an absolutely fearless leader. Generals are not supposed to be up there (at the front lines) getting killed. Privates, lieutenants and captains are supposed to get killed.”

When the commander of 2nd Platoon, Company B was killed in battle, Allen took over as company commander.

“There was a fairly large contingent of Germans … we were pinned down there. They were getting closer. We got into throwing hand grenades at each other.”

There was an eight-second delay before a grenade blew up after the pin was pulled, so the men were taught to count “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two ..,” before throwing it at a target. If thrown too soon, there was a chance the enemy could pick it up and throw it back.

“We were on the outskirts of town,” he said. “They were hiding behind walls and shooting at you. I was up with the lead platoon. The Germans threw some hand grenades at us.”

One of the guys he was with picked up a German grenade and threw it back.

“The one that got me went 10 yards when it exploded.” A piece of shrapnel hit Allen in the leg, tore through his pants and into his skin.

He was taken back to an aid station where a medic put some sulfonamide (antibacterial medicine) on the wound, covered it with a bandage and “Gave me a handful of aspirin and said: ‘That should take care of it,’ ” Allen said, laughing at the memory.

“We suffered a lot of superficial wounds, but we just pushed on,” he added.

The shrapnel earned Allen his first Purple Heart.

Read Part 2 of Allen’s story in the March 31 edition of The Desert Sun and mydesert.com

ANDY ALLEN

AGE: 90
DATE OF BIRTH: March 24, 1923
HOMETOWN: Madison, Wis.
RESIDENCE: La Quinta
BRANCH OF SERVICE: U.S. Army; 7th Armored Division; 2nd Platoon leader, B Company, 48th Armored Infantry Battalion; 3rd Army
YEARS SERVED: June 1942 – December 1945
RANK: Captain
FAMILY: Marjorie (deceased); four children, Andrews Allen Jr., Genie Allen, John Allen and Philip Allen of St. Paul, Minn.; nine grandchildren

Five U.S. soldiers killed in Black Hawk helicopter crash identified

Six UH-60L Black Hawks and two CH-47F Chinooks, assigned to Task Force Brawler, 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, Task Force Falcon, simultaneously launch a daytime mission Jan. 18 from Multinational Base Tarin Kowt. / U.S. Army

The Department of Defense on Saturday identified the five American service members killed in a helicopter crash in Kandahar, Afghanistan Monday night.

The five dead included everyone aboard the UH-60 Black Hawk, said Maj. Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan.

All were members of Task Force Falcon, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade. The task force is based at Kandahar Airfield.

Staff Sgt. Steven P. Blass, 27, of Estherville, Iowa, was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Henderson, 27, of Franklin, La., was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

Capt. Sara M. Knutson, 27, of Eldersburg, Md., was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

Staff Sgt. Marc A. Scialdo, 31, of Naples, Fla., was assigned to the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

Spc. Zachary L. Shannon, 21, of Dunedin, Fla., was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

The NATO military coalition said in a statement that “initial reports” showed no enemy activity in the area at the time. The cause of the crash is under investigation, the statement said.

It was the deadliest crash since August, when a U.S. military helicopter crashed during a firefight with insurgents in a remote area of Kandahar. Seven Americans and four Afghans died in that crash.

Col. Allan Pepin, Commander, Task Force Falcon, posted a message to family and friends on the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division Facebook page.
Excerpt of Col. Pepin’s message:
“On behalf of the brigade, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, friends and fellow Soldiers of our fallen. We are all affected by this tragic event; but we stand together, resilient, to continue the mission and honor their lives. As we reflect on our fallen, we were all blessed to serve with such patriots and dedicated Dog Face Soldiers. I am proud of them and the tireless efforts of the RC(S) joint team to work to quickly recover our fallen heroes. Proof we live by the Warrior Ethos, ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade.’”

Col. Allan M. Pepin, right, commander of Task Force Falcon, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, Command Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, left, command sergeant major of Task Force Falcon, 3rd CAB, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Randy Godfrey, center, chief warrant officer of the brigade, Task Force Falcon, 3rd CAB, unsheathe the Task Force Falcon colors during a transfer of authority ceremony Jan. 9, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. / DVIDS Hub

On Jan. 9, Task Force Falcon, 3rd Aviation Combat Brigade assumed responsibility of aviation operations in Regional Commands South, Southwest, and West on the flight line of Kandahar Airfield, in southern Afghanistan.

Task Force Falcon assumes aviation command

The area of operations is slightly smaller than the state of Montana.

The 3rd CAB, comprised of a reported 2,500 soldiers, is serving a 9-month deployment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

7 Medal of Honor recipients to speak at California State University, San Bernardino

 MEDAL OF HONORThere are three present day variations of the Medal of Honor. (L to R above): A wreath version designed in 1904 for the U.S. Army; the original simple star shape established in 1861, which the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard have retained; and an altered wreath version for the U.S. Air Force, designed in 1963 and adopted in 1965.

MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS COMING TO TOWN

Something very rare is happening next week in the Inland Empire.

Seven Medal of Honor recipients are scheduled to speak Tuesday, March 12 at California State University, San Bernardino as part of the 6th Annual Stater Bros. Charities Dave Stockton Heroes Challenge Golf Tournament.

The Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military decoration, is bestowed on a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and  beyond the call of duty.”

The men will share their stories of heroism and gallantry and the importance of teamwork, leadership, and dedication to America, and answer questions from local Jr. ROTC Cadets and members of veterans’ organizations from across the Inland Empire Region.

“It is an honor and a privilege to host this event for our community,” Jack H. Brown, Chairman of the Board and Chief Financial Officer, Stater Bros. Markets said in a news release announcing the event.

Photos of the men below include a link to their individual Medal of Honor citations at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.

Harvey C. Barnum Jr., 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam War

Salvatore A. Giunta, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, War in Afghanistan

Robert J. Modrzejewski, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam War

Robert M. Patterson, Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Vietnam War

Ronald E. Ray, 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Vietnam War

James A. Taylor, 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Vietnam War

Jay R. Vargas, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam War

Medal of Honor History

On Dec. 9, 1861 Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate  designed to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of   “medals of honor.” On Dec. 21, 1861 the bill was passed, authorizing 200 such medals be produced “which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War).” President Lincoln signed the bill and the (Navy) Medal of Honor was born. The same medal is bestowed to members of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard.

The U.S. Army Medal of Honor was established in 1862.

The U.S. Air Force Medal of Honor was authorized in 1956, and adopted in 1965.

Union Army soldier Jacob Parrott / Source: http://www.locomotivegeneral.com

The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to U.S. Army Private Jacob Parrott, who served with the 33rd Ohio Infantry during the Civil War.

The last award of the Medal of Honor was made Feb. 11, 2013 to U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha.

Medal of Honor Statistics

  • Since 1863, here have been 3,460 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
  • Today, there are 80 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.
  •  World War II
    • There are 11 Living Recipients who performed actions in the World War II.
    • There are 456 Deceased Recipients who performed actions in the World War II
  • Korean War
    • There are 11 Living Recipients who performed actions in the Korean War.
    • There are 125 Deceased Recipients who performed actions in the Korean War.
  • Vietnam War
    • There are 54 Living Recipients who performed actions in the Vietnam War.
    • There are 195 Deceased Recipients who performed actions in the Vietnam War.
  •  War In Iraq
    • There are 4 Deceased Recipients who performed actions in the War In Iraq.
  • War In Afghanistan
    • There are 4 Living Recipients who performed actions in the War In Afghanistan.
    • There are 3 Deceased Recipients who performed actions in the War In Afghanistan.
  • At one time, there were as many as five Medal of Honor recipients living in the Coachella Valley

Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery

Sources: Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Doug Sterner, Home of Heroes website

Soldier in finals at Modern Pentathlon World Cup in Palm Springs

Team USA's Dennis Bowsher, who is an Army Spc. and 2012 Olympian, had the lead of his group going into the combined 3km cross-country race and shooting event and finished second for the group during the men's qualifier at the 2013 World Cup of Modern Pentathlon in Palm Springs, Calif. on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. During the qualifier, athletes compete in four events including epee fencing, 200mm freestyle swim, and the combined run and shoot. During the finals, show jumping will be added. Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun

A Fort Carson, Colorado soldier is in the men’s final of the Modern Pentathlon World Cup today in Palm Springs.

Army Spc. Dennis Bowsher, is the only American to advance to today’s finals. He’ll be competing against 2012 Olympic gold medalist David Svoboda of Czech Republic and and bronze medalist Adam Marosi of Hungary. Also in the field is world #1 ranked Aleksender Lesun of Russia.

Team USA's Dennis Bowsher nears the finish line in the combined 3km cross-country race and shooting event to qualify for the finals at the 2013 World Cup of Modern Pentathlon in Palm Springs, Calif. on Wednesday. Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun

During Wednesday’s men’s qualifying round, Bowsher started the final event — a combined run and shoot — in the lead for Qualification Group C. He scored a personal best 1032 in fencing, and 1264 in swimming with a time of 2:08.16. He finished the combined event second with a time of 12:12.85 after only Christopher Patte of France who came in at 12:07.17.

Another service member, Air Force Reserve Maj. Eli Bremer, was the top American in Qualification Group A. He finished 14th for the group, but did not make the cut for today’s final.

Bowsher is part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) which provides soldiers with elite-level athletic qualifications to represent the Army while they train and compete. Though Bowsher travels on the competition circuit, he is a soldier first and had to apply for the WCAP after basic combat training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and advanced individual training (AIT) where he became an 88M Motor Transport Operator.

A 2012 London Olympics veteran, Bowsher told The Desert Sun sports reporter Patti Myers he is focused on Rio de Janiero in 2016. “Rio is gonna’ be our main focus and the main push for everything leading up that point,” he said. “Everything I learn from here it’s gonna be something I put in my bag for Rio.”

He and the rest of the finals field started the morning with fencing. The other four events will follow with swimming at 12:25 p.m., horse jumping at 2:35 p.m., and the combined 3km run with shooting between laps tonight at 5:25 p.m. The event’s presentation is scheduled at 5:55 p.m. All events are within walking distance of each other at Palm Springs Stadium and Sunrise Park in Palm Springs.

Two servicemen competing in Modern Pentathlon World Cup

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Herbert Temple, Jr. meets with service members and Team USA pentathletes and Olympians Army Spc. Dennis Bowsher (left) and Air Force Reserve Maj. Eli Bremer (right) after the opening ceremony of the 2013 World Cup of Modern Pentathlon in Palm Springs, Calif. on Tuesday, February 19, 2013. Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun

A pair of servicemen, both Olympians, are competing in this week’s World Cup of Modern Pentathlon, currently underway in Palm Springs.

Army Spc. Dennis Bowsher and Air Force Reserve Maj. Eli Bremer are set to compete in this week’s event.

They carry on a legacy of service member pentathletes in a list that includes Gen. George S. Patton, who competed in modern pentathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. Helen Patton, the general’s granddaughter, offered the keynote address at Tuesday’s opening ceremony.

After the opening ceremonies, both Bowsher and Bremer were greeted by retired Army Lt. Gen. Herbert Temple, Jr. who also spoke at the competition’s kickoff. During his speech, Temple challenged all the athletes to “be audacious.”

Throughout the week athletes will compete in five events including epee fencing, 200mm freestyle swim, show jumping, laser shooting, and a 3km cross-country race.

Bowsher, who is stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado, competed for Team USA in London at the 2012 Olympic games and placed 32nd overall with a point total of 5324. He is training for the next 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Bowsher completed Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and is trained as an Army 88M Motor Transport Operator for his occupational specialty.

He applied for and is now part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) which offers elite-level athletic training to soldier-athletes in Olympic sports. Soldiers are selected from active duty, Army Reserve, and the National Guard. On the Army WCAP website, the program is described as “A program that provides outstanding Soldier-athletes the support and training to compete and succeed in national and international competitions leading to Olympic and Paralympic Games, while maintaining a professional military career and promoting the U.S. Army to the world.” The program falls under the Army’s Recruiting Command and is an outreach tool to promote a positive image of the Army.

Bremer competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and comes to the Palm Springs event from Colorado Springs. According to his website, Bremer is a 2000 Air Force Academy graduate and competed for the Academy in swimming and fencing. After graduating, he was part of the Air Force’s World Class Athlete Program, which is similar to the Army’s WCAP detailed above. He earned an MBA from University of Colorado in 2006 and co-founded a corporate motivational training company, 5Ring Insight, in 2008. He continues to serve as a reservist and reports to Robins Air Force Base in Georgia when not in Colorado Springs.

Both athletes will compete in the Men’s Qualifying Round on Wednesday at venues located at Sunrise Park in Palm Springs. During the qualifiers, athletes compete in four out of five events with equestrian show jumping left for the finals and mixed relay days only.

Military deaths: December 5, 2012 – February 14, 2013

The following is a listing of military deaths between December 5, 2012 – Feb. 6th. The Debrief‘s last casualty post was December 5. This post is broken into sections including Operation Enduring Freedom deaths as well as other military deaths due to on and off duty mishaps.


Department of Defense announced the following military casualties which occurred during deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

No OEF deaths have been reported by the DoD thus far in February.

20 Jan. 2013: Sgt. Mark H. Schoonhoven, 38, of Plainwell, Mich. died Jan. 20, at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device on Dec. 15, 2012 in Kabul, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to the 32nd Transportation Company, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

16 Jan. 2013: Sgt. David J. Chambers, 25, of Hampton, Va., died Jan. 16, in Panjwai District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when he encountered an enemy improvised explosive device while on dismounted patrol.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, under control of the 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

10 Jan. 2013: Sgt. Aaron X. Wittman, 28, of Chester, Va., died Jan. 10, in Khogyani District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when he was attacked by a rocket propelled grenade while on mounted patrol.  He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

29 Dec 2012: Army Pfc. Markie T. Sims, 20, of Citra, Fla., died Dec. 29 in Panjwal, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 38th Engineer Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, under control of the 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

• 24 Dec. 2012: Army Sgt. Enrique Mondragon, 23, of The Colony, Texas, died Dec. 24, in Baraki Barak, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by small arms fire while on dismounted patrol. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 173rd Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Bamberg, Germany.

• 22 Dec. 2012: Navy Cdr. Job W. Price, 42, of Pottstown, Pa., died Dec. 22 of a non-combat related injury while supporting stability operations in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. Price was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit in Virginia Beach, Va.

14 Dec. 2012: Army Sgt. 1st Class Kevin E. Lipari, 39, of Baldwin, N.Y., died Dec. 14 in Logar province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to HHC 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Bamberg, Germany. This incident is under investigation.

14 Dec. 2012: Marine Corps Sgt. Michael J. Guillory, 28, of Pearl River, La., died Dec. 14 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif. This incident is under investigation. The Naval Safety Center posted a mishap summary involving a Marine killed during an ATV rollover in Afghanistan on the same day and with the same rank (E-5).

13 Dec. 2012: Army Staff Sgt. Nicholas J. Reid, 26, of Rochester, N.Y., died Dec. 13 in Landstuhl, Germany from wounds suffered on Dec. 9, in Sperwan Village, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 53rd Ordnance Company (EOD), 3rd Ordnance Battalion (EOD), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

13 Dec. 2012: Army Staff Sgt. Nelson D. Trent, 37, of Austin, Texas, died Dec. 13 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Fort Worth, Texas.

10 Dec. 2012: Army Staff Sgt. Wesley R. Williams, 25, of New Carlisle, Ohio, died Dec. 10 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, under control of the 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

8 Dec. 2012: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, 28, of Monroeville, Pa., died of combat related injuries suffered Dec. 8, while supporting operations near Kabul, Afghanistan. Checque was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit. Checque was a Navy SEAL and died during a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Joseph, who was abducted by Taliban insurgents, CNN Reports.

As of 10 a.m. EST, Thursday, Feb. 14, U.S. casualties during Operation Enduring Freedom totaled 2,168 including 2,047 in Afghanistan, 118 in other locations, and 3 DoD civilians. 18,255 military personnel have been wounded in action which is an increase of 146 WIA from statistics cited in The Debrief’s previous casualties post last on Wednesday, December 5.


The following on-duty non-OEF related military deaths have been reported for December – present.

15 Jan 2013: (FLORIDA) An Army National Guard Soldier died Jan. 15, from injuries sustained in a single vehicle crash. The 20-year-old Soldier was driving a HMMWV on a Florida highway when he lost control of the vehicle while attempting to change lanes and the vehicle overturned. HMMWV is the acronym for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as a “Humvee” tactical vehicle. According to police, the soldier was not wearing his seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle. He was air evacuated from the crash but died following the medical transport at the hospital.

14 Jan 2013: (MacDill AFB, FL) Air Force Staff Sgt. Emily Elizabeth Clayburn, 29, of Palatine Bridge, N.Y., died in an industrial area accident. She was assigned to 6th Logistic Readiness Squadron, 6th Air Mobility Wing,

09 Jan 2013: (Abilene, TX) Marine Corps E-7 died on 18 Jan from injuries sustained in a multi-vehicle mishap. He was driving a government vehicle.

09 Dec 2012: (Camp Pendleton, CA) Navy E-4 was killed after he was ejected during a HMMWV rollover. HMMWV is the acronym for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as a “Humvee” tactical vehicle.


The following off-duty military deaths have been reported for December – present. This list includes all deaths and mishap investigations The Debrief has access to, but does not include all PLRs posted by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness / Safety Center.

06 Feb 2013: (Camp Pendleton, CA) Marine Corps E-3 died in a single-vehicle mishap.

05 Feb 2013: (Meridian, MS) Navy E-5 passenger died on 07 Feb from injuries sustained in a single-vehicle mishap.

24 Jan 2013: (Naples, Italy) Navy E-4 died in a multi-vehicle mishap.

20 Jan 2013: (St. Lucie County, FL) Navy E-6 died in an automobile mishap.

20 Jan 2013: (Hawaii) Army soldier Trevor McGurran, 23, of Wahiawa, Hawaii died in a motorcycle accident. He was assigned to 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

20 Jan 2013: (Houston, TX) A 38-year-old Soldier died Jan. 20 from injuries sustained in a single vehicle crash while on leave in Houston, Texas. The Soldier was driving his vehicle at a high rate of speed through a construction zone when he lost control, struck a curb, and slammed into a concrete pillar. He was evacuated to a local medical center where he was pronounced deceased.

19 Jan 2013: (Georgia) A 47-year-old Army officer died Jan. 19 from injuries sustained in a single vehicle crash in Georgia. He was driving his vehicle when he lost control in a curve. The vehicle exited the roadway and struck a tree. Seatbelt use has not been reported but initial reports indicate he was ejected from his vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

13 Jan 2013: (Jacksonville, FL) Navy E-5 found deceased in hotel hot tub.

06 Jan 2013: (San Diego, CA) Navy E-4 died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle mishap.

03 Jan 2013: (Newport News, VA) Navy E-5 killed in motorcycle accident involving a tractor-trailer.

27 Dec 2012: (Beaufort, SC) Marine Corps E-4 died in a motorcycle mishap when he was struck head on by another vehicle.

27 Dec 2012: (Wichita, KS) Marine Corps E-3 passenger died in a single-vehicle mishap after the vehicle hit a ditch, went airborne and overturned.

24 Dec 2012: (Pagat Caves, Guam) Navy E-3 drowned while swimming.

19 Dec 2012: (Escondido, CA) Marine Corps E-5 motorcyclist died in a multi-vehicle mishap.

01 Dec 2012: (Mission Bay, CA) Marine Corps E-3 died in a recreational diving mishap.


Sources: Department of Defense, Naval Safety Center, Air Force Safety Center, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center.

Marine Jr. ROTC cadets, Marine Corps supporter in the news

Mike Bickford, owner of Miracle Springs Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs, was honored for his support of local Marine Corps organizations during a Jan. 23 luncheon at the resort.

The luncheon was arranged by Marine Corps League Cpl. Jason L. Dunham Medal of Honor Detachment #1156 in recognition of Bickford’s support of the detachment, the Marine Corps Jr. ROTC cadets at Desert Hot Springs High School, and members of the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.

Bickford, a Marine veteran who served during the Vietnam War, was presented with a special plaque from the detachment.

Ret. U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col Carl Lewke — detachment commander and senior Marine instructor at Desert Hot Springs High School — reports that seven of the school’s Marine Corps JROTC cadets have enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps — and all were present at the luncheon: Rigoberto Arce, D-metri Gardenshire, Joseph Madrid, Franciso Ruiz, Luis Patino, Juan Alvarado, and Luis Vargas.

This is a school-year record number of students who have signed enlistment papers to join the Marines.

“Three additional Marine Corps JROTC cadets have already signed their enlistment papers to enter the U.S. Army this summer as well,” Lewke said. “Those cadets are Bobby Carter, Jonathan Logan, and Tyler Shupe. “Thus far, ten 10 of the Desert Hot Springs High School Marine cadets will be entering active duty this summer.”

Last month, members participated in a drill competition held at Desert Hot Springs High School. The competition gauges participants’ military excellence and allows for units to demonstrate their drill preparations and ceremonial excellence.